Volunteer profile: Meet Shelton from Melbourne’s Central Hub

There would be no Welcome Dinner Project if it wasn’t for hundreds of amazing volunteers all around the country who give boundless passion, dedication and love to make people feel welcome in our communities.

Every fortnight, the Welcome Dinner Project – Victoria will profile one of its volunteers. We hope this helps you to get to know us better.

Role: Coordinator
Hub: Central

Why did you join WDP?
My partner had a friend who was involved in the Sydney WDP and was interested in hosting a dinner in Melbourne. She received a WDP email one day, which was a callout for new WDP volunteers. I had a look at the WDP website and was inspired by what I saw. I thought ‘I’m already a trainer and facilitator, I can help’. I trained to be a facilitator in the second group of facilitators in Victoria in 2015.

I wanted to be a facilitator to have the chance the give back, to be the change I wanted to see rather than standing back. When the chance came to take a redundancy in 2016, it was the catalyst to becoming a WDP Coordinator. I wanted to devote more of my time to doing good in the world. Stepping away from full-time work to being a contractor allowed me to change my approach about how I do things and to focus on connection. WDP provides me with the platform to explore that and I’ve never looked back.

What is your favourite WDP memory?
I was facilitating at a community dinner in Docklands during Ramadan and during the dinner an Egyptian woman approached me. She was quite emotional as she said ‘this is the first time I’ve felt welcome and I feel at home.’ She had been in Australia for 4-5 months already and hadn’t had the opportunity to meet people or be welcomed into the community. I felt really proud in that moment that I was part of WDP and that I could provide her with that experience.

A bit about me
My father is from Sri Lanka and my mother is from Austria but they met in a block of flats they shared in Melbourne. I also have a half sister in Austria as well as many Sri Lankan and Austrian relatives in Melbourne who also immigrated to Australia years ago. My parents passed away when I was quite young and from that experience, I learnt the most important in thing in life is connection – connection with family and connection to your community. It was this value that eventually lead me to the WDP.

Consequently, that’s what I love about where I live in Abbotsford. We have a very strong sense of community around the suburb. I’m an animal lover and one of my favourite things to do is take the dog down to the local dog park at Victoria Park Oval. Everyone is there on the weekend and we all know each other – it’s a real community space. Recently I was walking by the park and a few of the locals were at a BBQ cooking pancakes for breakfast. They invited me to join them and I ended up spending the morning there – it’s wonderful to a part of the community fabric here.

Right now I’m busy studying to get my Advanced Diploma in Facilitation and Group Work. I’m also working with startups in blockchain technology, which I really enjoy. Being a contractor now means that I’m free time to devote my time to the things I value the most.


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